Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dangers of Aluminum Solid Branch Wiring

Due to a shortage of copper in the mid-1960s, builders increased the use of aluminum wire in residential electrical distribution systems.   Homes built before 1965 are unlikely to have aluminum branch circuit wiring.  Homes built, remodeled or with electrical upgrades from 1965 to the mid-1970s may contain aluminum wiring.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff and other government Officials have investigated numerous hazardous incidents and fires throughout the nation involving aluminum branch circuit wiring.  The Franklin Research Institute conducted a national survey for the CPSC.  The survey showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets that reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes with copper wire.

The fire hazard investigated by CPSC occurs at connections with aluminum wire, including receptacles or switches and junction boxes; or the hazards occur with major appliances, including dishwashers or furnaces, for example. There are several deterioration processes in aluminum wire connections that cause increased resistance to the flow of electric current, resulting in damage that is cumulative in effect. That increased resistance causes overheating, sometimes at hazardous levels, when current is flowing in the circuit.

Signs of electrical system problems include receptacles or switches with face plates that are hot-to-the touch; inoperable circuits; flickering lights; or the smell of burning plastic at outlets or switches.

Aluminum wiring can be replaced or repaired to effectively and permanently reduce the possibility of fire and injury due to failing wire connections and splices. It is highly recommended that you hire a qualified electrician, familiar with aluminum solid branch wiring, to perform this remediation.

Replacement of the aluminum branch circuit conductors with copper wire eliminates the primary cause of the potential hazards, the aluminum wire itself.  Depending on the architectural style of your home, it may be relatively easy for a qualified electrician to rewire your home.  A new copper wire branch circuit system would be installed, and the existing aluminum wire could be abandoned inside the walls. This is the best method available; but for many homes, rewiring with copper is impractical and/or prohibitively expensive.
 
 
 
Frank Carr is the Owner / Inspector at First Choice Home Inspections in Deltona, FL serving Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Lake Counties.  Formerly in the building trades, Frank’s focus is a safe home and building FCHI. We believe that consumers have the right to expect the highest standards of thoroughness, fairness and effectiveness from their home inspector and that is exactly what we provide.


First Choice Home Inspections
(386) 624-3893
Http://www.1homeinspector.com

 

8 comments:

  1. Great ideas and information..I gives me more knowledge on this matters.



    louisville home inspections

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  2. "aluminum wire" in the 1960-1970 is much different than in 2013......
    Back in the day the aluminum alloy used was what is referred to Alloy 1350 now codes require that a 8000 alloy is used. The other issue was (and still is) the aluminum wire was being used with devices ( switches, receptacles ect) that were made to be used with copper. This is the root cause, the device was not rated for aluminum wire. You can purchase these devices at any HD, Lowes. You will note that the price of these devices are much higher than a "copper only" device. Alloy 1350 is still used but mainly in transmission lines while alloy 8000 is used in low voltage branch circuit conductors.

    I would recommend you explore your options before you rewire your home, it may not be Necessary. Let facts guide you not fear.

    If you want some facts: think of this, almost 100% of the electricity generated is moved over aluminum wire, but taboo in a home? if the correct devices are used, a dielectric compound is used on connections & splices aluminum wire works just fine. These aluminum rated devices are pricey but used with the compound will solve the issue.

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    Replies
    1. I can not agree with your logic on this one. Frank has hit it spot on. The problem is the safety and the insurance companies refusal to insure homes with solid branch electrical wiring. Yes if your home has solid branch electrical wiring you can change out your outlets and switches for your own peace of mind but if you plan on selling your home or changing insurance companies, you have a major liability. I have purchased homes with aluminum wiring but to resell them the wiring must be replaced. No one wants a home that is unsafe or uninsurable. If you sell a home that is uninsurable you are only giving yourself a bad name. As far as the insurance companies are concerned the only option for aluminum wiring is to replace it.

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  3. I can't agree with you to a complete extent. The dangers are not only because of the aluminium wiring but also due to the improper installation and fixtures. So always hire a professional technician for the installation. There are licensed technicians who provide best aluminium wiring repair service, they will work with you to determine which of the 3 ESA approved options suits your home best.

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    1. Aluminum wire is considered a safety hazard by the CPSC and other government agencies. Due to aluminum wire likelihood to cause fires, homes with aluminum wiring are not insurable by most insurance companies. Although their are outlets and switches that are made to be compatible with aluminum wiring the insurance industry will not insure home with solid branch aluminum wiring.

      Citizens Insurance ATB #005-10 – June 9, 2010
      Heating and Electrical Rule

      This rule was expanded to clarify that homes with aluminum branch wiring circuits, as well as knob-and-tube wiring, are not eligible for coverage.

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  4. Aluminum wire is considered a safety hazard by the CPSC and other government agencies. Due to aluminum wire likelihood to cause fires home with aluminum wiring are not insurable by most insurance companies. Although their are outlets and switches that are made to be compatible with aluminum wiring the insurance industry will not insure home with solid branch aluminum wiring.

    Citizens Insurance ATB #005-10 – June 9, 2010
    Heating and Electrical Rule

    This rule was expanded to clarify that homes with aluminum branch wiring circuits, as well as knob-and-tube wiring, are not eligible for coverage.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Is anyone aware of reports or findings that show how many house fires have been attributed to aluminum wiring vs copper? One referenced report (which I've not been able to put my hands on) from one CPSC commission meeting that cited two deaths in 1973 related to a house fire with aluminum wiring seems a bit odd to me. This one edict has directed 100's of millions of consumer's dollars into the pockets of insurance companies and electric unions. It would seem to me the information on aluminum wiring caused house fires would be all over the internet. Although I've just begun looking all roads have led me to the one commission meeting.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your opinion on prices for home inspection. Do not hire home inspector before proper checking his/her documentation and qualification.
    Redondo Beach certified home inspector

    ReplyDelete